Jul 30

Could Ryan Braun Be A Fit For Mets?

Kudos to Milwaukee owner Mark Attanasio for his immediate gesture to Brewers fans in the wake of the 65-game suspension of Ryan Braun. But, will it end there? Could the Brewers want to clean up their mess by trading Braun? And if so, could the Mets be a fit?

BRAUN: What is his future? (Getty)

BRAUN: What is his future? (Getty)

Yes, Braun got off on a technicality the first time and Major League Baseball has had it in for him since. It was only a matter of time before they nailed him. Could it also be a matter of time before the Brewers decide to cut ties with Braun?

The Brewers’ best player lied to his teammates, management, fans and anybody he spoke to about performance-enhancing drugs. The quotes from players and supporters – including Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers – have been venomous.

With Braun gone for the season and the Brewers stagnant on the field, the team will give each fan who shows up at Milwaukee’s 12 home games in August a $10 voucher good for food, merchandise and future tickets.

“This is an investment in our fans and an investment in our brand, to do what we can do to mitigate a trying summer,’’ Brewers chief operating officer Rick Schlesinger told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “We were finalizing something like this to give back to our loyal fans just as news of Ryan’s suspension hit. Mark decided he wanted to make a dramatic impact that would cost more money.’’

Based on their current attendance figures, it is estimated the Brewers will give their fans roughly $3.6 million in vouchers, or effectively a good chunk of the remaining $8.5 million they were to pay Braun this year. Instead of pocketing the money, the Brewers are giving it to their fans.

This is no cheap gesture.

What happens when Braun returns is anybody’s guess. He might be booed or Brewers’ fans could forgive and forget. It remains to be seen how strained his relationship with ownership and management might be. His presence could also create a clubhouse divide. There are not a lot of people happy with Braun now, including those players mentioned in the Biogenesis case. By taking a punishment without appeal, it gives credibility to Tony Bosch, which could hurt the defenses of other players.

Schlesinger spoke of the Brewers’ brand. Currently, that brand is mostly Braun, and the wonder is if they want to continue with that considering the potential of stress and negativity.

Could that strain lead to an eventual trade, and would the Mets be interested? Braun is a talented player, but with a positive test – albeit tainted – there’s the question of his true talents. It must be that way with any player linked to steroids.

Braun to the Mets is intriguing on many levels. He would be a huge upgrade, but what is his value? The asking price can’t be as high if Braun were clean. What would it require to get him in terms of talent, and would the Mets risk it based on his PED history? Would the Mets, or any team that wanted Braun, know what they are getting? The Brewers must be asking the same question if they opt to keep him.

Braun signed a five-year, $105-million contract extension from 2016-2020, and an option for 2021. That’s reasonable money for what Braun has produced, but it must be asked whether that production is he or the juice.

It would be a significant gamble by the Mets because of the length of Braun’s deal and the chance of paying for damaged goods. The Mets don’t have to look any further than across town to see what the Yankees are going through with Alex Rodriguez.

Going after Braun could generate a negative buzz around the Mets, but that’s better than no buzz.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 29

Could Juan Lagares And Eric Young Be A Viable One-Two?

As the enthusiasm for a strong finish by the New York Mets might have fizzled in Washington, a bright spot continues to be Juan Lagares, raising the possibility of a speedy tandem at the top of the order with Eric Young.

Of course, he needs to show more offensively, but that part of his game is improving and the power might develop as he gets stronger and learns the pitchers better. It must be remembered development also includes adjusting to the pitching when it adjusts to him.

LAGARES: Catch of the year?

LAGARES: Catch of the year?

Lagares’ opportunity came from the collective ineptness of the Mets’ outfield. Currently, he and Young are the only outfielders that could be considered starters heading into spring training.

Lucas Duda might end up at first if he’s still on the team; Marlon Byrd might not be re-signed; Kirk Nieuwenhuis has his moments, but they are sparse.

Lagares is outstanding defensively, and his diving catch where he lost the ball and re-caught it might be one of the best of the season by an outfielder.

The objectives over the next two months for Lagares and Young are to show GM Sandy Alderson his outfield needs aren’t so severe.

Lagares’ average is slowly rising, but his 47-to-7 strikeouts-to-walks ratio must close, and if it does his .299 on-base percentage and .699 OPS would rise. His number projected over 162 games would be 121 strikeouts, 18 walks and 39 doubles.

The number that stands out most with Lagares are 15 doubles in 175 at-bats. Give him 600 at-bats and he would be pushing 45 doubles. If his strikeouts and walk numbers improved, the Mets would have themselves a solid center fielder.

Meanwhile, despite cooling since his hot debut, Young is still a catalyst at the top of the order with a .275 average and .357 on-base percentage in 138 at-bats.

Since the rest of the season is for finding answers, I would like to see if Young and Lagares can complement each other at the top of the order. What is currently preventing that is Daniel Murphy’s ability to work the count and protect Young as a base stealer.

Should Lagares develop in that area, it might be intriguing, and could allow for Murphy to be lowered in the order to give him more favorable RBI opportunities.

That would be important to know if the Mets don’t bring back Byrd, which I see as unlikely. I figure, as with Scott Hairston after last season, the Mets won’t give the player two years.

Jul 26

Mets, Nationals Heading In Opposite Directions

There’s still a big chunk remaining to the season, but the New York Mets have a chance of, a) finishing over .500, b) finishing in second place in the NL East, c) finish with a better record than the Yankees, or d) all of the above.

It is possible, but also something nobody realistically considered at the start of the season. With a handful of days before the trade deadline, the Mets aren’t going to make a run at the playoffs, but instead have opted to keep a pat hand to ascertain how good they are at the end of the season.

It’s not a bad stance as it gives them a greater understanding of their offseason needs, important since they have close to $50 million coming off the books. Trading pieces such as Bobby Parnell, Marlon Byrd and Ike Davis will only create more holes.

Washington was seemingly given a free pass to the World Series by the national media, but the Nationals are fading fast and the Mets could leapfrog them this weekend, beginning with a doubleheader today.

With the exception of Jenrry Mejia going against Jordan Zimmerman in the first game, all the pitching match-ups favor the Mets.

Not many in the sport are feeling much empathy for the Nationals, who in their first taste of success in decades last season carried themselves with an arrogance that firmly stated “we’ll be back here often,’’ when it shut down Stephen Strasburg.

Instead of limiting his innings piecemeal, the Nationals cut him off at the end and kept him from pitching in the playoffs. That worked out well, didn’t it?

As the Mets attest, the playoffs aren’t a given. They haven’t been back since 2006, but coughed up opportunities the following two years.

I understand the Nationals’ reasoning, just as I understand the Mets’ doing it with Matt Harvey, but there’s a better way than just pulling the ball when he reaches an innings limit. The Nationals ignored the rest of their players and placed more an emphasis on Strasburg than anybody else.

They gave the impression the playoffs would be a given. However, manager Davey Johnson is retiring after this season; Strasburg is having a down year; their bullpen has holes; and the offense has been erratic.

The Nationals basically dismissed the rest of the NL East, which now belongs to the Braves.

The Nationals’ problems are well documented, as are the Phillies’ injuries. This time next week the Phillies could have traded several key pieces, although they say they are keeping Cliff Lee.

This time next week both could be looking up at the Mets.

Amazing.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 25

Mets’ Young Shows Compassion To Hudson

In an era of self-absorption and chest thumping by players in all sports, despite the painful events as the igniter, class and respect was on display Wednesday night by the New York Mets and Atlanta, with Braves pitcher Tim Hudson on the giving and receiving ends.

YOUNG and HUDSON

                                                                             YOUNG and HUDSON

By know, you’ve probably all seen the gruesome replay of the Mets’ Eric Young stepping on and fracturing Hudson’s ankle. He’ll undergo surgery in Atlanta and could be lost for the year.

What you might not have seen was Young checking on David Wright after the Mets’ third baseman’s bat snapped and cracked him on the back of the head.

The gesture did not go unnoticed in the Mets’ dugout. “The first guy when the bat broke and hit David, Tim’s standing right there to make sure he’s OK. That’s the kind of guy he is,’’ Terry Collins said.

When you extend class and courtesy, it comes back to you, and Hudson felt the warmth from the Citi Field crowd, but also compassion from Wright and Young, who both stayed by Hudson as paramedics treated him on the field.

“It sucks,’’ a saddened Wright told reporters. “I’ve gotten a chance to be around Tim at All-Star games and playing against him for so long. He’s one of the good guys in the game and to see him go down like that and know something was wrong, it’s tough to watch.’’

Outside of Hudson, the only person who felt worse was Young, who knew he got Hudson’s ankle and none of the base. Young immediately sprinted to Hudson and bent over to pat him on the back.

Young stayed with Hudson throughout the time he was being treated, and shook his hand as he was carted off the field, perhaps for the last time this season.

“You never want to injure anybody,’’ Young said told reporters after the game. “I knew I didn’t get any of the base. I know I got all of his foot. … I pretty much knew it was probably broke right as I did it. That’s why I sprinted right back to him and try to console him as much as I could and apologize.”

Covering first base is a dangerous play for a pitcher because his eyes are on the ball and not the runner or the base. The pitcher winds up “feeling’’ for the base with his foot, and Hudson’s was squarely on the middle. There was no place else for Young to run.

Young said Hudson told him an apology wasn’t necessary as they shook hands on the field. Hudson repeated those words to Young when the Mets’ outfielder checked on him in the Braves’ clubhouse.

“I obviously wasn’t trying to hurt him on the play,’’ Young said. “He just told me to keep my head up and keep playing the game the hard way, the right way. He said there was nothing I can do about it.

“That made me feel somewhat better, but still bummed that he’s going to be out for a while. I just hope he has a speedy recovery.’’

Everybody does.

Jul 24

Ike Davis Showing Signs

Ike Davis is nowhere close to where he wants to be as a player, and the New York Mets are taking the second half to see if he fits into their plans. Unless Davis goes on a complete tear the next two months, the odds are very good the Mets will not tender a contract and let him go as a free agent.

Understandably, their fear is he’ll walk and become a start someplace else. Nobody will blow them away with a trade offer, so he’s staying out the season.

DAVIS: Looking to smile again. (AP)

DAVIS: Looking to smile again. (AP)

Davis is currently in a platoon with Josh Satin, which he’s understandably not happy about, but he’s not moaning or complaining. He is supportive of Satin. Davis is being the good soldier, albeit publicly, about a disappointing time in his career.

Davis doubled in the tie-breaking run in the sixth inning Tuesday night, but I liked his failed bunt attempt more. It shows his head is in the game; it shows he’s trying to improvise. It shows he’s not going through the motions.

“I mean, I get out a lot anyway, so might as well give it a try,’’ Davis said. “If I get it down in the right spot, it’s a hit. I’m definitely gonna try to do that more often.’’

Davis is supposed to be a power hitter, but with only five homers on the year, he needs to just try to get on base. It doesn’t matter if it is a walk, or broken-bat bloop or a bunt.

Bunting against the shift is difficult because pitchers often pitch inside to induce the hitter to pull into the shift. Davis bunted back to the mound, but the important thing was he wasn’t thinking about driving the ball, but about getting on base.

It was a team first play by Davis, when he could have been tempted to swing for the fences. Later, Davis stayed back on a curveball for a double off the wall in right.

“It definitely feels great to get [a hit], off a curveball, and to get the winning run across the plate,’’ Davis said. “And to drive the ball — I hadn’t driven the ball in a while.’’

Davis is a young player with a lot of room to grow. He’s had good moments, such as hitting 32 homers last year. When he first came up he showed a propensity of going the other way with a pitch and showing patience enough to wait out a pitcher.

He’s hitting .178 overall, but .257 since returning from Las Vegas.  That’s certainly not great, but a sign of progress. We’re not going to see 32 homers from Davis, and probably not even 20. But, after how this season started, progress is a good thing.

ON DECK: Mets notebook

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos